Civic Engagement, Student Self-governance at UVa

    If you go to a millennial’s Facebook page, you’ll find a dozen links to articles on political issues. But does this count as civic engagement? UVa students Zaakir Tameez and Elizabeth Parker think not.

    In an effort to help college students take meaningful political action, Tameez and Parker proposed the idea of a statewide civic engagement task force to Governor Terry McAuliffe, who approved their proposal in June, and thus Governor McAuliffe’s Task Force on Millennial Civic Engagement was born.

    On Thursday, September 7, Tameez, Co-Chair of the Task Force, and Parker, Student Representative to the Task Force, led their first round table discussion at UVa on how to make civic engagement–specifically, voting–easier and more desirable for college students. Special guests Kelly Thomasson, Secretary of the Commonwealth, and Traci DeShazor, Deputy Secretary of the Commonwealth and Co-Chair of the Task Force, also helped facilitate the discussion. Audience members were encouraged to voice barriers they frequently encounter throughout the voting process.

     

     

    For many students, the biggest challenge is accessing their polling location.

    Having noticed the University’s neglect of this issue during last year’s election, Parker took matters into her own hands. In a letter that received signatures from members of both the University Democrats and College Republicans, she asked the UVa administration to allow Safe Ride, a shuttle service that normally operates during late hours, to provide students with free transportation to and from their polling location. Over 1,000 students benefited from this system. Parker said the process of getting the administration’s approval was long and difficult, which she found concerning. “I think sometimes student self-governance can be used as a cop-out–it’s a way to put burdens on students that really should fall on administration, quite frankly.”

    Students also brought up the issue of being misguided on where to vote. Since 11 first-year dorms share a name with Charlottesville City streets, campus dorms are often confused with city houses, and incorrect polling locations are assigned. Students had attempted to resolve this issue in the past, but their efforts “[didn’t] continue because people graduate,” Zaakir explained, adding that “the blessing and curse of student self-governance is that the University can just say…you guys take care of it, but then the best practices get lost every year.”

    What are some challenges you experience as a voter? Do you think the University is responsible for providing solutions to these challenges?

     

     

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